Wills & Estate Papers
Like Janus the Roman god of beginnings and endings, able to look simultaneously backward and forward, legal wills and estate papers are invaluable to family historians. They offer insight into assets, relationships and things of value and sustenance: “Two cows, her choice”, “my cross-cut saw”, “one rugg… a bed and side saddle” and of course foodstuffs and firewood for widows.
A letter of Guardianship, written in 1767 regarding two Nova Scotia Cook boys offers the incomparable key to sorting out their origins and is offered below.
Last Will & Testament of James Cook Senr
Portapique, Nova Scotia, 30th Apr 1793
In the Name of God Amen} I James Cook Segr of Portapique Yeoman in the Town Ship of London Derry, And in the Province of Nova Scotia being in perfect mind and memory, thanks be given unto God; Calling into mind the mortality of my body, and knowing that It is appointed for all men once to die, do make and ordain this my last will and testament; that is to say, Principally and first of all I give and recommend my soul into the hand of Almighty God that gave it, And my body I recommend to the earth, to be buried in decent Christian burial, at the discretion of my Executors; nothing doubting but at general Resurrection I shall receive the same again, by the Mighty power of God, And as touching such worldly estate wherewith it hath pleased God to bless me in this life, I give, demise and dispose of the same in the following manner and form
First I give and bequeath to my dearly beloved Wife Martha, two cows her choice, two ewes one hog and If fatted every year and the third part of the moving effects of the house; ten bushels of wheat ten bushels of oats twenty bushels of potaties every year as long as she remains my widow. Also I give to my beloved son James Cook Junr one whole wright of Land, and four hundred and fifty five acres, house barn and all the remainder part of my cattle with my remainder of the moving effects likewise all debts which may be due to me at my death} I also give to my well beloved Dawter Ginny Doo seven pounds of lawful money or produce, } I also give to my well beloved Daughter Margaret McDonald Ten Pounds of good and lawful money or produce} I also give to James Cook my beloved grandson, and son of Ralph Cook four pounds of good and lawful money or produce And I Also give to my beloved Daughter Nancy one English Shilling I Also give to my beloved Son Ralph Cook one English Shilling. I also give to my Beloved Daughter Fanny One English Shilling.} I also give to my beloved Daughter Elizabeth One English Shilling} and I do hereby utterly Disallow, Revoke, and Disanul all and every other former Testaments, Wills, Legacies, Bequest and Executors by me in any wise before named willed and bequeath ratifying and confirming this and no other to be my last will and testament In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 30th day of April in the thirty third year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord King George the third and the Year of our Lord one Thousand Seven hundr’d and Ninety three.
James Cook Senr his mark (X)
Signed sealed published pronounced and declared by the said James Cook Seig.r as his last will and testament, In the presence of us, who in his presence and in the presence of each other have hereto subscribed our names
John Richard Hanlon
Filed and entered May 17 1794
The Will and Administration of James Cook Senr omitted naming an executor so on May 17th 1794, a Bond was filed by James Cook Junr and Charles Dickson to Surrogate Judge of Probate Wills, Charles Morris Esq. to execute the will. It was witnessed by Ralph Cook and William Scott.
Source: Estate C 136 for James Cook of Londonderry. Probate Court, Halifax, Nova Scotia